Rationale: The new Global Initiative for Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) stratification of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) into categories A, B, C, and D is based on symptoms, level of lung function, and history of exacerbations.
Objectives: To investigate the abilities of this stratification to predict the clinical course of COPD.
Methods: Two similar population studies were performed in an area of Copenhagen including 6,628 individuals with COPD.
Measurements and main results: The patients were monitored for an average period of 4.3 years regarding COPD exacerbations, hospital admissions, and mortality. The percentages of individuals experiencing a COPD exacerbation during the first year of observation were 2.2% in group A, 5.8% in group B, 25.1% in group C, and 28.6% in group D. One- and 3-year mortality rates were 0.6 and 3.8%, respectively, in group A, 3.0 and 10.6% in group B, 0.7 and 8.2% in group C, and 3.4 and 20.1% in group D. Groups B and D, characterized by a higher degree of dyspnea than groups A and C, had five to eight times higher mortality from cardiovascular disease and cancer than did groups A and C.
Conclusions: The new stratification performs well by identifying individuals at risk of exacerbations. Surprisingly, subgroup B, characterized by more severe dyspnea, had significantly poorer survival than group C, in spite of a higher FEV(1) level. This subgroup warrants special attention, as the poor prognosis could be caused by cardiovascular disease or cancer, requiring additional assessment and treatment.